Rights and Opportunities

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Mary Crow Dog’s We Aim Not to Please is a first-hand account of Crow Dog’s time spent involved with the American Indian Movement. A movement initially created to contest police brutality would later lay the foundation for social change, and restore a greater sense of pride and spirituality among native people. The methods and the general feeling of racial mistreatment and injustice aren’t uncommon to what we still handle in our modern day.

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The American Indian Movement was founded in 1968 in Minnesota. The fathers of the movement were men doing time in Minnesota prisons. Its earlier members were Indians who had lost most of their culture and traditions (Crow Dog 322). The leaders of that time were Clyde Bellecourt, George Mitchell and, Dennis Bank. The leaders spoke out in opposition to high unemployment, slum living conditions as well as other racist treatments. They worked in efforts to regain tribal land and fought against many of the federal treaties that threatened the preservation of their rights and homelands (Maxey). The unpunished deaths of natives would be the cause of feelings that birthed the “Trail of Broken Treaties” in 1972. Furthermore, the US government’s failure to uphold their end of treaties made with Indians caused much of the unrest between several tribes. The Trail of Broken Treaties was the greatest action taken by Indians since the Battle of Little Big Horn. The first person to propose a march on Washington was Bob Burnette. Each caravan was led by a medicine man or a spiritual leader, each marching different a trail for different reasons. Sioux tribe, for example, started from Wounded Knee to symbolically feel as though the ghosts of murdered women and children were marching with them (Crow Dog 327).

Upon arriving in Washington, allies who had promised them housing and food when they arrived had been intimidated into withdrawing their support. Their list of twenty demands was outrightly ignored by many high officials, including President Nixon. Under duress, someone suggested to march on the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After a week-long takeover of the building that the government opened up to negotiations, that in turn would never be met such as; a promise to review their twenty-point list of grievances and not to prosecute for the BIA takeover. From a practical standpoint, nothing had been accomplished but morally, they were victorious. This protest would just be one of many held in the pursuit of justice.

Around that time, other demographics, particularly African Americans had also started movements to protest the social unfairness they faced. Despite the similarities between the two groups, Crow Dog found it noteworthy to mention that Indians had referred to a black person as a “’black white man’”. She went on to explain that the most distinguishable quality between the two had been that black people strived to have what white men have. “They want in, We Indians want out!” (Crow Dog 324) We can still see a real-world comparison in regard to how minorities are treated by others that are racially oppressed. With many people being predisposed to ethnic biases, it can prove difficult for even people in similar circumstances to dismiss them.

Still to this day, we are shown proof of having not advanced very far past the issues that plagued the Native Indian community. Movements like BlackLivesMatter founded in part by 3 women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and, Opal Tometi. Similar to the goals of AIM, BLM focuses its efforts on “imaging and creating a world free of anti-blackness, where every black person has the social, economic, & political power to thrive”. Originally, BLM acted as “a call of action” to intervene when violence was inflicted on African Americans by police and vigilantes. A prominent example of perpetuated violence against black people would be the case of Trayvon Martin. Martin was a young black teen who was gunned down by a neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman, that was later found not guilty of his murder. The verdict would result in inciting a thirty-one-day takeover of Florida’s State Capitol. Though unfortunate, the verdict would turn out not to be the last of its kind. In similar cases like the Michael Brown case, that brought nationwide attention to the plights of those in the African American community. Some would argue that this case, much like Norman Little Brave’s was a catalyst that would launch BLM from a chapter-based member-led organization to a movement on a global scale. It also would inspire many other movements just like it. In the years that have passed, many efforts continue to be made in the pursuit of justice, still instances keep on piling up. The Washington Post later published a database that allows readers to see the amount of police involved fatal deaths there have been in the last 3 years. The results show little to no improvement in number.

Meanwhile, in cases unrelated to BLM, such as the DAPL movement against the approval of a pipeline through Dakota. The movement would come to be what NBC news called “the largest modern-day gatherings of indigenous people”. The construction of this oil pipeline was set to run through Sioux reservation and beneath the Missouri river, where many felt as though it could create great danger for their water supply. Although met with great opposition, the Trump administration did not show any signs of giving up despite the ill feelings of many in the Standing Rocks Sioux tribe. In fact, following Trump’s inauguration the full environmental review promised was rushed, solidifying the long-time reputation of breaking promises to the tribe (Helsel, Medina). The pipeline was still constructed despite multiple lawsuits and the protests of thousands of people. Its evident that still in today’s age the opinions, and desires of minorities are still being overlooked.

However, racial issues are not the only ones to have been highlighted by public demonstration. The gay community has long been a target of much ill-treatment in the United States. Gays were previously diagnosed as having a “sociopathic personality disturbance”. They were banned from obtaining certain jobs and faced social scrutiny. In June of 1969, a popular gay bar in lower Manhattan was raided by police. In response to that riots, and demonstrations took place that we later considered the first gay pride parade. The pride parade has gone on to be a staple of celebration and unity from state to state. After years of hardships, through the power of determination and desire for change, great strides have been made in providing equal rights and opportunities to those in the LGBT community. In 2011, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, a military policy banning openly gay men or women from joining the armed forces, and only as of four years ago did, they finally earn the right to marry one another. Even with great efforts made, there is still work to be done until everyone by law is viewed equally.

The American Indian Movement continues to lead as an example of what can be done to bring awareness to social wrongness. The movement and one’s similar have given a stage to a voice that was once talked over or silenced. It’s important that we as a nation, work intently on promoting pride in who you are from the color of your skin to your beliefs. And to be fairly treated despite what those may be. It also remains vital to hold the government and its citizens appropriately accountable for their actions. In time, we can recreate the world to be more a more accepting, honest and fair place to live and raise future generations.

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Rights And Opportunities. (2022, Apr 25). Retrieved November 29, 2022 , from
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